NFA protected its image before its students, which is reprehensible

Arthritic turtles have moved faster than the investigation into recent malfeasance at Norwich Free Academy, finally revealing Wednesday egregious levels of institutional arrogance and negligence.

Hence, can someone on the NFA Board of Trustees, whose curious silence thus far belies the gravity of the charges, explain why it's business as usual on campus?

Straight up: Administrators and other employees who knew of Anthony Facchini's transgressions and failed to notify the Department of Children and Families with due diligence have no business around high school students, pending the investigation's completion.

They need to be walked off campus forthwith.

All of them.

Because they committed the ultimate act of betrayal to their first priority: the safety and welfare of the kids. Instead, they caved to preserving NFA's image.

Disgraceful.

Think about it: The warrants released Wednesday indicated NFA officials were aware of Facchini's alleged inappropriate relationships with two female students more than a year before the second allegation was brought to DCF's attention. The word "negligence" barely defines such flagrant arrogance and irresponsibility.

And yet members of the Board of Trustees, as well as administrators from NFA's other sending towns whose concerns should be equally noteworthy, might as well be in witness protection.

Until Thursday, when NFA director of communications and public affairs Geoffrey Serra finally released a statement acknowledging Wednesday's developments "raised questions about an internal investigation conduct in April 2017," and that the Board of Trustees has "initiated an investigation by an outside, independent party to review the facts of the April 2017 internal investigation," it's been crickets.

It's just not acceptable.

Remember, too, that the careers of several administrators in Montville have been imperiled in recent months for failing to report something as comparatively trivial as slap boxing. This is two cases of second degree sexual assault, the second of which could — and very likely would — have been prevented had the people entrusted with ensuring the safety of NFA students done their jobs.

Or at least adhered to "if you see something, say something."

Apparently, though, Thou Shalt Protect NFA's Image is a greater commandment at 305 Broadway than Thou Shalt Protect The Students.

Say this much for NFA, however: Its public response to the unsealed warrants remains consistently obtuse, landing somewhere between gratuitous and reprehensible.

"We do not know for certain which documents were unsealed today," Wednesday's initial statement said. "We will be seeking copies of them to review and consult with our legal team. We are not in a position to provide commentary at this time."

What did they not know for certain? The warrants were unsealed. You go get them. Then you read them. Example: The Day's Claire Bessette wrote a 2,055-word story about it, pouring over every word. There's nobody at NFA interested enough to do the same, apparently, and issue a statement such as, "we are taking these allegations very seriously and will do our best to find the truth and discipline the appropriate parties. Student safety is our No. 1 priority."

Instead, we get "we can't provide commentary at this time."

Because that's not the NFA Way. The NFA Way is to protect the brand at all cost, using all the considerable money and resources available within the walls of the city.

Mr. Facchini, coaching track at the time of his inappropriate conduct, violated the sanctity of the coach-player relationship. His actions demanded immediate and diligent responses from his superiors.

High school coaches have unique perches in the lives of their players. They are adults who play a different role than other adults in kids' lives. They are authority figures, sure. But they're not necessarily administrators, teachers or parents. They are often mentors and targets of great admiration and adoration. They're linked to the games our kids play — and all the distinctive emotions and metaphorical richness that create indelible memories.

The residual effect is an inherent vulnerability in kids that coaches must understand and recognize. Mr. Facchini clearly did not. His superiors, rather than investigating, did the equivalent of sending him to bed without dinner. Hey, he's an NFA guy. He's one of our own. We protect them at all cost. And that kind of stuff doesn't happen at The Academy anyway.

Except that it did.

Twice.

If members of the Board of Trustees have a chance to reclaim their backbones, they can start here: back up the truck and start over. Anybody who failed to protect the kids on campus needs to go. Now. Failure to act accordingly sends the tacit message that inappropriate behavior toward students is condoned on campus.

This is the time for The New NFA.

The NFA where student safety trumps all.

Including image.

Especially image.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

Editor's Note: In an effort to protect the identities of victims, our policy is to not allow comments on any story about sexual crimes.

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